In the sixth article in a Catalyst Community series, we’ll learn about the impact architectural design has on a building that provides critical health care services, MyMichigan Heart and Vascular Center.
Paul Haselhuhn is the president of WTA Architects.
Sharing his personal story is Paul Haselhuhn, a Midland resident, and the president of WTA (Wigen Tincknell Associates) Architects, a general practice firm founded in Saginaw in 1947. They specialize in architectural design including commercial, education, healthcare, governmental and more.
Paul Haselhuhn is the President of WTA Architects. Haselhuhn has been with WTA since 1998. He’s been a project manager on a wide variety of projects and now specializes in higher education and commercial facilities.
The general contractor and architect of record for the project was the Three Rivers Corporation of Midland. Three Rivers received support from Hord Coplan Macht.
Last year, on Memorial Day weekend, while working in my yard, I experienced chest pain. After a few minutes, I could no longer convince myself that I had just pulled or tweaked something, and my wife rushed me to the hospital. The events that followed introduced me to the wonderful MyMichigan cardiovascular team, as well as the recently completed Heart and Vascular Center at MyMichigan Medical Center in Midland. Even while being in shock that my life was changing as I lay on a gurney moving through the hospital, I couldn't help but notice the building around me. Today, as I continue on my personal health care journey, I’ve been back to the Heart and Vascular Center multiple times for various appointments and rehab. The following are my thoughts as an architect about one of the new medical facilities here in Midland:
View of the lobby of the MyMichigan Heart and Vascular Center
Although it wasn’t the first thing I noticed when arriving at the ER the day of my heart attack, as I’ve returned to visit the facility, I’m acutely aware that this new Heart and Vascular Center is very recognizable on campus among the rest of the hospital campus There are a couple reasons for this. First, one’s attention is drawn to the warm gray natural clay and stone materials that were used, setting the building distinctively apart from the red brick buildings that surround it.
The next thing you notice is that the building feels inherently inviting. This is influenced by its scale and transparency. Even though this is a three-story building, as you approach from the north, the building feels modest in size due to the layering of façade elements. The push and pull of building forms makes some elements reach out and welcome you, such as the entrance and lightweight canopy.
Other elements that don’t require immediate engagement pull back, creating a softer, more approachable building. This layering of the building also allows for found spaces, that allow for the inclusion of courtyards for both public and staff. These courtyards only begin to truly reveal themselves once you’ve entered the building. Another element that impacts how the building initially welcomes you is the use of translucent glass. That is, glass that allows you to better see into the building, making it feel less impenetrable. It’s part of a way the building says, “good morning” as you arrive for your visit.
Glass that allows you to better see into the building, making it feel less impenetrable.
As you enter the building, you immediately begin to be removed from the parking lot and current construction going on just outside. Warm, natural elements greet you, from the underside of the drop-off canopy to the materials used on the floors, walls and ceilings.
Natural light and river-like elements expressed in the floors and ceilings invite you to move deeper into the space to engage with those waiting to assist you with your visit. As you follow this path, something feels inherently calming. Beyond the natural materials, you notice the soothing sound of falling water, and gentle musical tones engage your senses.
If you continue to follow the path, you’re gifted with the experience of space that resembles a natural ravine you might happen upon while hiking within our beautiful state forest. The space opens, revealing the heart of the building’s vertical circulation of stairs and elevators. But not just any stairwell; the walls are covered in stone and wood, with elements of art glass reminiscent of waterfalls, above you, a burst of natural light like the sun filtering through the forest canopy. At the basin of this space, live vegetation abounds…all types of flora and a waterfall allow guests a place of tranquility. And amazingly enough, as you stop and gaze through this ravine, you’ll notice that the view beyond, through the three-story tall bank of windows is more forest-like than urban. Yes, there’s a parking lot there, but you need to look for it. The focus is on the foliage that envelopes the landscape beyond.
View of the office waiting area in the Heart and Vascular Center.
Over my career as an architect, I’ve come to believe this core value - In architecture, if you’re going to do anything, do something for humanity. A lot of buildings struggle with this but thinking back to my own night of anxiety last summer, a building that not only allows the medical team to provide exceptional patient care, but also calms a patient’s senses…I think successfully achieves this value.